Suzanne Weyn is an author whose works I have enjoyed a great deal, but I seldom see her getting any real attention/promotion. When I saw Distant Waves at a Scholastic Warehouse Sale, I had to pick it up and give it a read-through. It was so much more and better than I expected.
Although the cover says it is “A novel of the Titanic,” it is really much more than that. In fact, the Titanic doesn’t make an actual appearance until a little over half-way through the book. It is just one setting within the story, albeit an important one. Putting mention of the Titanic on the cover seems to me like a lure to get readers to pick up a book that can stand on many other merits.
Summary: Jane is the second of five sisters who live with their mother, a psychic. Early in the book, the family meets the brilliant scientist Nicola Tesla when caught in an earthquake he has caused with one of his experiments. From then on, Jane follows Tesla’s career through newspaper articles, keeping them in a scrapbook.
The family settled in a “spiritualist community” where their mother becomes a well-respected medium. Although Jane isn’t sure she believes in her mother’s gift, her doubt is nothing compared to the eye-rolling of Mimi, the eldest of the five daughters. Even when her twin sisters start to show signs of "the gift," Jane's doubts make her, at a certain level, an observer within her own family.
When Mimi learns a secret about her heritage, she runs away, leaving Jane feeling responsible for “losing” her older sister. She is eventually distracted, however, by the chance for the whole family to travel to London to be part of a large spiritualist gathering that is trying to discover if a great war is truly about to break out. At this gathering, Jane meets another of her heroes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, as well as his friend Harry Houdini.
All five sisters find themselves aboard the Titanic for its maiden voyage, in spite of dire warnings that it may not be safe. How will they survive when the predicted sinking occurs? And how will Tesla’s presence on the ship change history?
One of the things I loved about this book was the inclusion of Nicola Tesla as a character. He is such a fascinating figure, and Weyn did an excellent job of capturing many facets of his personality. After reading this, I found myself wanting to read more about his life, achievements, and disappointments. The author did a wonderful job of taking elements of history and incorporating it into a story of her own creation – mixing characters that were truly part of the event into the plot in a believable way.
12 and up
Areas of concern (content):
Foul Language: none
Nudity/Adult Content: very mild
Violence: very mild